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Those Pesky Job Interview Questions

question-markIn an interview for a fashion magazine internship ( even working for free is competitive these days) one of my students was asked, “Who do you follow on Twitter?”  Smart young woman, she named several clothing designers and stylists—exactly the answer the interviewer wanted—and landed the position.

That Twitter question was a softball compared to some now routinely thrown at job candidates. An annual survey by Glassdoor.com compiles the “top 25 oddball interview questions” and they are bizarre indeed ranging from “How many cows are there in Canada?”  to “What kitchen utensil would you be?”

Do HR managers and others ask these questions just to torment already anxious job seekers?  Some top name-brand firms,  from Apple to Google to Bain to Marriott, pose these brainteasers.  The purpose of these kooky questions, according to HR experts, is to get beyond “Tell me about yourself” and “What’s your worst quality?” (workaholic of course!) The questions are designed to see how the applicant handles pressure, demonstrates creativity and meshes with the company culture.

In an interview with Glassdoor.com, Susan Ruhl, a managing partner at a Denver consulting firm,  explained  that analytical skills are demonstrated by questions such as “How many cows are there in Canada”; thought processes by “How would you direct someone else to cook and omelet,” and cultural fit “What kitchen utensil would you be?”

While we wrote last week about letting your unemployed adult child conduct her own job search, you might consider tossing around some of these questions with them so they are not taken by surprise. Their answers—and even yours–might make for some crazy conversation.  Of course, your adult child might surprise you by being ready with an answer.  A young man we know interviewed—successfully—at an investment bank and was asked: “If you have 2 jugs, one that holds 3 gallons and the other 5 gallons, how would you measure out 4 gallon of water?” He quickly gave the correct answer.  How did he know? He recalled a scene from “Die Hard 3” where Bruce Willis was challenged with the same question by the villain!

The full list of Glassdoor’s 25 outrageous interview questions for 2013:

“If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?” — Asked at Forrester Research, research associate candidate.

“How many cows are in Canada?” – Asked at Google,  for a local data quality evaluator position.

“What songs best describes your work ethic?” – Asked at Dell, consumer sales candidate.

“Jeff Bezos walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it?” – Asked at Amazon, product development candidate.

“What do you think about when you are alone in your car?” – Asked at Gallup, for an associate analyst position.

“How would you rate your memory?” – Asked at Marriott, front desk associate candidate.

“If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?” – Asked at Trader Joe’s, crew candidate.

“Estimate how many windows are in New York.” – Asked at Bain & Co., associate consultant candidate.

“What’s your favorite song? Perform it for us now.” – Asked at LivingSocial, AdventuresCity manager candidate.

“Have you ever stolen a pen from work?” – Asked at Jiffy Software, software architect candidate.

“Pick two celebrities to be your parents.” – Asked at Urban Outfitters, sales associate candidate.

“How would you direct someone else on how to cook an omelet?” – Asked at Petco, analyst candidate.


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